chapter  1
9 Pages

Introduction

Since the early 1990s culture has entered economic analysis again, whereas it was totally absent from mainstream economics during most of the second half of the twentieth century. At that time the dominant view in economics was based on rational behaviour, and did not take the context of the decision-making process into account. The disappointing results of this approach as well as developments in the world economy (the Asian miracle and the transition of previously centrally planned economies into market economies) triggered an awareness of the relevance of the context in which people make decisions. Of course there has always been an undercurrent in economics which emphasized the importance of the context for decision making. Adherents of behavioural economics, with researchers such as Herbert Simon, Richard Nelson, Sidney Winter, and later Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky are examples in this respect. Moreover, other disciplines of social science studied the influence of morals and attitudes towards economic behaviour and economic success. Examples are Banfield’s (1958) study on the moral basis of the backward society in Southern Italy and McClelland’s (1961) book on the role of achievement motivation in persons’ and countries’ economic success.